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Poster: AltheaRose Date: May 12, 2011 4:47am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: touch heads (are a media myth?)

I think there are a couple factors in the alleged "Touchhead" thing, and the song was only tangential. This is just my own speculation, but ...

First, I think the scene itself was getting bigger around '85 or so. Perhaps it was the 20th anniversary. Perhaps it was the rediscovery of the 60s that seemed to be going on then. One factor is that you had a different generation -- or mini-generation -- coming up, and they were Gen Xers and not Tail-End Baby Boomers, so the scene was now being created by people without personal recollections of the 60s, but a great and often romanticized passion for it.

One thing this meant, at least as I recall, was a more self-conscious, self-referential enacting of the notion of Being a Deadhead. One visible difference was the sheer amount of tie dye that suddenly appeared. I think it was partly an anti-Reagan era thing -- an insistence on countercultural values -- so I thought it was pretty cool and encouraging at the time. "We will survive," right? But it was definitely a change, at least in my experience, and a sign of other changes in attitude, too.

Then, enter the media. This is sort of an insider's view here, since I spent the Mega-Dead era as a card-carrying member of the Evil Media (literally card-carrying, on occasion ... it's great for getting to the front at a show, LOL!) and I did, in fact, manage on several occasions to write about the band. But to pitch a story to your editor, you need ... drumbeat, please ... a hook!

"20th (or 25th) anniversary" is a good hook. So is "the first real hit." The most common hook that reporters pitched was undoubtedly "they've had a number one hit and now they've got all these new people following them in tie dye and, whoa, check THIS out, readers! The '60s survive!" That would definitely intrigue the editor (and photo editor).

So, the media started to do these silly sea-of-tie dye stories because they were fun to do. And most folks in the media writing about the GD weren't Deadheads, so the results tended to be stereotyped. (I recall being at a press conference in '90 or so, and it was supposed to be about Mickey's book, but I think I was the only one who had pitched that angle to my editor. Everyone else seemed to be doing "sea of tie dye." Geez, there were SO many dumb questions ... I felt kinda bad for him.)

Hence, the snowball effect. First, an increasingly self-conscious enacting of an idealized version of the 60s on the part of the crowd; then a media that easily latched onto that, particularly when there was an unexpected hit as a hook; then more people heard about the GD in ways that were colored by media depictions of a traveling Woodstock; then even MORE folks came on board to get in on the party, but now often in the wrong way ....

The song itself? Well, just a media hook, really. I doubt many new fans were particularly obsessed with it. But what a great hook! "We will survive"? For a no-hit band that's still "truckin'" on its "long strange trip" even though the members all have "a touch of gray"? It would be awfully hard for most writers on a deadline to pass up THOSE obvious lines, particularly when they're not Deadheads and are really just doing a fun story that gets them out of the newsroom!

So ... that's my theory. It was the media's easy way to describe the phenomenon of Mega-Deadness that was beginning to happen partly on its own. And it stuck and snowballed.

Actually, I think I've even got documentary evidence (stop the presses!) that the "Touchhead" phenomenon was happening prior to In the Dark. This is an interview done for promotion of that album. As I recall, there are references to "the band's resurgence" and "maybe it's just that our time has come" and so on. I haven't relistened, but I think it's where Phil is talking about singing again.

http://www.archive.org/details/gd87-01-01.sbd.unknwon.23067.shnf

Anyway, it's a fascinating listen, and if I'm right on that ... well, obviously no Touchheads-To-Be could have heard Touch yet, right? (It had been played for a long time, but no one who was theoretically going to be drawn to the GD by the hit would have heard it.) So the resurgence was happening BEFORE the album. Having a hit just gave the snowball an extra push, and the media had fun painting that snowball in rainbow colors.

As for the "Touchhead" name ... well, my guess is that it was just the DH community's catchy way to describe the new arrivals, with a disparaging overtone because of the changing environment at shows. Not a real reflection of the complex things that drew so many new arrivals to the scene.

My wordy 200 cents on a rainy day :-)





This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2011-05-12 11:47:41

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Poster: reviewr Date: May 12, 2011 2:24pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: touch heads (are a media myth?)

Interesting perspective.

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Poster: Finster Baby Date: May 12, 2011 9:16am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: touch heads (are a media myth?)

No way you could have been part of the "main stream" media,
AR. Your post is waaaay to well written. haha

You bring up many great points. I agree that the surge began before 1987. I was first introduced to the band in 1982 (my first year of high School). My first show was 1984. I kind of felt at the time like I was part of an upsurge in popularity for the band. It was "cool" to be a deadhead when I was in school. It was kind of a clique unto itself. i.e.--- jocks, motor heads, nerds, burnouts, deadheads, etc. I think this resurgence of the band was happening slowly during this time, it just really picked up speed after In The Dark came out, for many of the reasons that you stated.
the funny thing about Touch was that prior to 1987 it was one of my favorites. I remember when I first started hearing it on the radio, thinking wow, this is really cool.
Finally, the GD getting some air play. I think that lasted maybe a week at most. Like every other song that ever made the charts, it got played to death. It got overpalyed to the point that for the longest time after that, I almost hated it. I didn't even want to hear it at shows.

anyway....I'm done rambling. I mainly wanted to just say thanks for your post. Well written and spot on as far as I can see. The interview you linked is pretty cool, too!

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Poster: J2ME Tutorial02 Date: May 12, 2011 10:22am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: touch heads (are a media myth?)

Hi there,
I had read all your quries and I think I have something for you.
Thanks.
-----------------------
J2ME Tutorial

This post was modified by J2ME Tutorial02 on 2011-05-12 17:22:06

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Poster: J2ME Tutorial02 Date: May 12, 2011 10:21am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: touch heads (are a media myth?)

Hi there,
I had read all your quries and I think I have something for you.
Thanks.
-----------------------
J2ME Tutorial